DES MOINES, Iowa —Andre Jefferson is ready to take on the world.
Jefferson won the long jump at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals on Friday, beating a field that included collegiates and high schoolers to qualify for international competition.
The win places Jefferson on the USA national team, which will compete at the Pan-American Junior championships later in the summer. The competition featured athletes ages 16-19, with the top finishers in each even earning the right to represent the red, white and blue in Medellin, Columbia August 23-25.
Battling a light drizzle and head wind, Jefferson topped the field with a distance of 24 feet, 1 3/4 inches. The Tyler native won the New Balance Outdoor nationals last week in North Carolina to stake his latest claim as the country’s top prep jumper.
Earlier in the year, Jefferson captured the New Balance Indoor nationals in March in New York City, and took gold at the 4A state meet in Austin in May. He competed at the Great Southwest meet in New Mexico a week before going to the Atlantic Coast for outdoor nationals.
“I’m glad I got the win,” Jefferson told the Tyler Paper. “I’ve been working extremely hard for this moment and it paid off. But it’s not done yet. I’m going to continue to work hard so I can win the world junior’s as well so I may show I am truly the best in the world.”
Jefferson jumped far enough on his first attempt (23-3 1/2) to cinch the competition. After a 22-9 on his second try, the John Tyler product improved gradually on the final four attempts - getting a clean jump off each time. Jefferson sailed 24-6 on his third try, 23-10 3/4 on his fourth jump, 24-0 3/4 on his fifth leap and 24-1 3/4 on his final crack.
Jefferson won by a foot over runner-up Caleb Cowling (23-1 3/4). John Glazier placed third at 22-11 1/4, Cameron Hudson took fourth at 22-8 and Kartavius Hamilton claimed fifth at 22-5 1/4.
“I was proud he got the win because he has (traveled) over 2500 miles in three weeks,” said Tyrus Jefferson, a former world-class long jumper who coaches his son Andre. “And he still jumped over 24 feet into a head win. I’m proud how he has matured and has become a good long jumper.”
Jefferson’s father, who was once ranked among the world’s top 10 long jumpers, said former world-class jumper and NFL player Eric Metcalf has expressed interest in coaching his son overseas.
— Harold Wilson